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March 17, 2024

What You Need to Know About Plastic Surgery Risks

Written by: Dr. Dahlia Rice. Posted in: Blog

Plastic Surgery Risks

More Americans than ever before are enlisting the help of plastic surgeons to correct and contour various areas of the body with the goal of boosting their self esteem and self-confidence. Despite the increasing number of plastic surgery procedures and talented plastic surgeons available, there are still significant risks with plastic surgery that all potential patients need to be aware of.

The good news is that plastic surgery complications are pretty rare, as plastic surgeons do everything they can to ensure patients are excellent candidates for each surgical procedure.

In fact, the purpose of your initial plastic surgery consultation will be to discuss not only the surgical procedure and its body contouring results, but also your current health and medical history.

Even if you’re deemed an excellent candidate for plastic surgery, the medical and health risks should be considered as you move forward with your decision to undergo any cosmetic procedures. After all, it’s not just the surgical procedures that may pose a risk, but complications during the recovery process and problems that can arise later on.

What Is Plastic Surgery?

Plastic surgery is essentially an umbrella term for the many procedures designed to alter the shape and appearance of your body.  These types of procedures are often classified in the three categories of body procedures, breast procedures, and face procedures.  Some of the most common aesthetic surgery procedures include:Medical Risks Of Plastic Surgery

  • Breast augmentation surgery with breast implants
  • Breast Reduction
  • Tummy tuck
  • Liposuction
  • Rhinoplasty
  • Facelift
  • Neck lift
  • Eyelid Surgery
  • Arm lift
  • Hair transplantation
  • Brazilian but lift (BBL)

Cosmetic surgery and reconstructive surgery are also forms of plastic surgery:

  • Reconstructive surgery aims to repair defects and injuries from trauma and illness. Reconstructive surgery restores function and natural appearance to the affected body parts. This would include plastic and reconstructive surgery to address birth defects, burns, cancer, scars that limit mobility, and severe injuries to large areas of the skin.
  • Cosmetic surgery aims to enhance the appearance — specifically for non-medical reasons. Cosmetic surgery is essentially a group of surgical procedures designed to boost self esteem and self-confidence by altering the size, shape, and symmetry of certain body parts. For example, breast augmentation, with saline of silicone implants, is one of the most common and popular cosmetic surgeries.

Regardless of the type of cosmetic surgery you’re considering, it’s all associated with incidence and risk factors. This is even true for minimally invasive procedures.

The Most Common Surgery Risks

What are the risks with plastic surgery? There are several risks of surgery that you’re likely already aware of. Of course, there are a few that you may have never even guessed could be an issue. Realistically, these are the most common surgery risks that plastic surgeons want all patients to be aware of and informed about managing complications:

Bad Reactions to Anesthesia

One of the most common risks of surgery involves anesthesia. General anesthesia and local anesthesia are administered to different extents for cosmetic surgery and plastic and reconstructive surgery to numb the area and mitigate pain.

General anesthesia is usually the culprit for procedure complications, ranging from lung infections to stroke. Other common complications involve waking up after plastic surgery, such as confusion, disorientation, shaking, and vomiting.

Before undergoing any cosmetic procedures or even reconstructive plastic surgery, your surgeon will do everything in their power to ensure you’re healthy enough for the anesthesia.

Surgical Scarring

Most surgery procedures involve creating an incision site. Plastic surgery patients who undergo common procedures such as breast surgery or tummy tuck surgery, for example, are very aware that each incision site will have some scarring.

Most board certified plastic surgeons have extensive training and utilize the best techniques to minimize scarring. Eventually, the scarring fades and becomes noticeable. However, many cosmetic procedures and even certain types of reconstructive surgery involve making larger incisions, which will leave more significant scars.

Blood Clots

Blood clots aren’t very common, but they’re still a potential risk of plastic surgery. This is especially true for tummy tuck patients. Clots typically form from a condition known as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT), during which the clots begin in the leg veins and travel to the lungs. When this happens, it can cause a pulmonary embolism (PE), which can be fatal.

The risk of blood clots forming during plastic surgery is five times higher in patients undergoing multiple plastic surgeries compared to those only undergoing one plastic surgery.

Hematoma Formation

A hematoma occurs when a small pocket of blood pools beneath the skin. Hematomas create large, painful bruises on the surface of the skin, and they’re considered a potential risk in all types of plastic surgery, including minimally invasive procedures.

Hematomas more commonly occur in male patients and also occur in 1% of breast augmentation procedures and facelift procedures. Some hematomas require an additional surgical procedure to drain the blood.

Risks Of Plastic SurgeryBlood Loss

Most types of plastic surgery involve a certain extent of blood loss. This is especially true for reconstructive cosmetic surgery and some cosmetic procedures.

However, there is a risk of extensive blood loss occurring, causing blood pressure levels to drop to a fatal level.

Some patients may also experience excessive bleeding during the recovery process, which is usually a sign of tissue damage or disrupted suture.

Nerve Damage

There’s always a chance that any type of plastic surgery will damage the tissues or nerves. The risk of nerve damage during a surgery procedure is small, but the risk factors vary based on who is performing the surgery and how many surgical procedures they’ve done successfully.

Always be on the lookout for any numbness or tingling after having surgery.


Surgeons will take every precaution to prevent infections from occurring during and after surgery. However, infections, such as breast implant infections can still occur, especially during the healing process after the plastic surgery. Infections can be mild or severe enough to require intravenous antibiotics.


A seroma is similar to a hematoma in that it’s a result of bodily fluid pooling beneath the skin. Seromas can cause painful swelling, and they’re considered one of the most common complications to occur in patients recovering from tummy tucks.

If a large amount of fluid accumulates, your doctor may have to perform another surgery to drain the seroma and clean out any infection.

Risks of Plastic Surgery FAQs

What is the highest risk plastic surgery?

The Brazilian butt lift (BBL) is considered the highest-risk surgery procedure, as the gluteal area is filled with major blood vessels. If the surgery procedure is performed incorrectly, fat can enter the bloodstream and block the heart or lungs, possibly becoming fatal.

Are there health benefits to cosmetic procedures?

Plastic surgery health benefits can go beyond aesthetics, such as correcting physical abnormalities, improving breathing, alleviating discomfort, and enhancing mobility for a better quality of life.

What percentage of cosmetic surgery procedures end in complications?

According to studies conducted between 1995 and 2017, less than 1% of outpatient plastic surgery and cosmetic surgery procedures incur complications.

Who is a bad candidate to have plastic surgery?

Patients with adverse health conditions or a history of bad reactions to anesthesia are considered poor candidates for surgery. Additionally, patients who don’t keep up with a healthy diet or are smokers are also considered poor candidates, as poor health and medical history increase the risk of possible complications after cosmetic surgery.

Can I finance my body rejuvenation procedures?

Yes, plastic surgery financing is ofter available through various means such as medical loans, payment plans, or healthcare financing options offered by providers.

Schedule Your Plastic Surgery Consultation Today

Whether you’re interested in a specific cosmetic surgery or need reconstructive surgery, the first step is learning about the procedure and assessing your health to rule out possible complications.

Dr. Dahlia Rice is a board certified plastic surgeon with the skills and experience to ensure your cosmetic surgery goes according to plan. Contact the DMR Aesthetics team today to schedule your consultation!


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